Here was a match to buck the new trend for slipshod defending and goals raining in every 10 minutes, but Tony Pulis will not be losing any sleep over that. The only goal came from a set piece, and the West Bromwich Albion manager will not have any objection on those grounds either.
His side have three points in the bag, their first win since March, and in Jay Rodriguez and Ahmed Hegazi the Baggies appear to have found a couple of players who will liven up Saturday afternoons at The Hawthorns.
Rodriguez slowed up after a lively start, ending up being booked for a foul on Ryan Fraser, though Hegazi was impressive all the way through.
A craggy centre-half on loan from al-Ahly, the Egyptian defended and distributed well, in addition to scoring the winning goal, and – considering this was his first taste of the Premier League – he could easily emerge as a cult hero with a few more games under his belt.
“He made a great start,” Pulis said. “I watched a couple of games in the African Cup of Nations and was impressed by Egypt, so we followed it up and took a chance.”
Albion supporters probably need a little more excitement in their lives, judging by the way they greeted the new season with a chant of “there’s only one Gary Megson”. Pulis’s new assistant spent four years here as manager and received a royal welcome back.
West Brom made the more spirited opening, with Rodriguez prominent in most of their attacks. The striker set up Matt Phillips for the first shot of the game, then brought the first save of the afternoon from Asmir Begovic with a crafty effort on the turn.
It took a well-timed tackle by Steve Cook to stop Rodriguez bearing down on goal after Jake Livermore’s pass had set him free, then the former Southampton player headed too high from Chris Brunt’s corner.
It was the other debutant who opened the scoring, however, when Hegazi met Brunt’s well-flighted free-kick at the far post to nod down and under Begovic. It was not a great goal for the Cherries to concede; Brunt’s delivery is usually reliable but there was little pressure on Hegazi as he reached the ball and Begovic might have reacted more decisively.
The big defender almost had a second a few minutes later, shooting hurriedly over the bar when the ball unexpectedly broke to him in a forward position, but Pulis will have been pleased to note his new acquisition continued to cause havoc at set pieces. He reached a corner first just before the interval to set up a chance that Brunt put narrowly wide, before resuming his defensive duties to clear from Benik Afobe.
The only brief chance Bournemouth had of drawing level before half-time was when Ben Foster came a long way off his line for a ball he could not quite reach, but Josh King slipped in trying to take advantage and Claudio Yacob was able to tidy up.
After 18 uneventful second-half minutes of the home side retreating into defence and the visitors struggling to break them down – now known in these parts as Walking in a Megson Wonderland – Eddie Howe did the obvious thing and sent on Jermain Defoe for the last half-hour. The 34-year-old would dearly have loved a goal on his latest debut but was not allowed a sniff. You have to work hard to force openings against West Brom at this stage of the season, and with Bournemouth not forceful or creative enough, the home defence was never really in trouble.
“They killed the game in the second half; they are tough to break down when they are in front,” Eddie Howe said. “We dominated possession but didn’t do enough with it. We were too slow and predictable.”
The nearest thing to a second goal came when Salomón Rondón brought a stoppage-time save from Begovic. While there was still time left for Foster to have to make one from Fraser, nothing ever looked like changing the scoreline. The Bangles’ Walk Like an Egyptian rang out as the players left the pitch. The same friendly sort of welcome bestowed upon Megson, but just that little bit more upbeat.
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